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  • Writer's pictureLucy Warner

The Role Of The Counsellor In Supporting The Client Experiencing Grief And Bereavement

We often marry the terms grief and bereavement together, but understanding the clear differences between the two is important. We experience grief and bereavement not only after losing someone through death of a loved one, but also after a breakdown of a relationship or friendships, a job, even our health. Grief is the experience we feel to the loss, and bereavement is the loss we feel whilst we learn to adapt to the new situation.

It is important to remember that everyone will experience grief and loss differently- there is no one way that is right. It is a very personal and individual experience and the loss we feel can be overwhelming: feeling angry, lonely, anxious or feeling consumed by grief are all common emotions whilst we adjust to life without a loved one, or changes in relationships or health or other loses in our life.

The journey is not an easy one. Close relationships are what we cherish the most, forming the heart of what we care about. When they end, especially when abruptly or unexpectedly, the pain can be profound.

The goals of grief counselling

Grief can be associated with many forms of loss (including following a separation, divorce or a job), as well as the processing related to bereavement of a loved one. Different psychological approaches can be used to support the client experiencing grief and bereavement. The Four Tasks of Mourning Model is a counselling tool that can help the client identify ways to work through and process their grief. Accepting the reality of loss, can be fundamental in how the client can process their grief and begin to look at their life without their loved one. This is central to enable the client to be able to make positive changes, and perhaps more importantly, acknowledge their feelings.

The counsellor will support the client by:

  1. Increasing the reality of loss

  2. Helping the individual deal with emotional and behavioral pain

  3. Supporting them as they overcome obstacles to readjustment

  4. Helping them find a way to maintain a bond while feeling comfortable reinvesting in life

The counsellor will also support and encourage the client to talk about their feelings and their past with their loved one, and how they are feeling in the here and now, and what their future may look like without their loved one. Planting a tree, or creating a memory box may be a proactive way of encouraging the client to acknowledge their grief, but also honouring their loved one's memory.

The dual process model can also be a very useful tool to use. The restoration -orientated activities and stressors acknowledges secondary loses and this is paramount when working with grief. Not only is the client grieving for their loved one, they are grieving for the loss of the future together, the plans that they had- for example retirement, holidays, and their life as lovers, or family members. The loss of relationships, or lifestyle or the home they shared for example, are losses that impact how individuals might manage their grief or hinder their ability to accept the loss. The therapist’s role therefore, is to support the client in acknowledging these losses in addition to the loss of their loved one and to support the client in developing new ways of looking at their life without their loved one. This process encourages the client to work through the pain of their grief holistically and encourage to adjustments of life without their loved one. This then enables the client to explore their future without their loved one and maintain a connection to them, but move forward in their new life.

The counsellor's role is to encourage the client to explore their fears and worries, in a safe environment where their feelings are validated and not judged. It is very common for friends and family to find it difficult to support the grieving person as they may feel awkward, or not know what to say. They might over time expect the individual to have worked through their grief.

The counsellor will offer a safe space to encourage the client to work through their grief, listen without judgement and provide empathy. Encouraging the client to explore life without their partner can be helpful in supporting the client to encourage understanding their purpose and identity without their loved one. For example, isolation is very common for individuals who have lost their partner- exploring what they could do to encourage socialising maybe helpful- support groups, interests they have or new interests as an individual may be helpful.

The key to success is tailoring the techniques, timing, and setting to the individual’s unique needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for navigating the complexities of grief. Instead, the therapist should adapt tools and interventions to suit the client’s specific circumstances to support them through what often is the most challenging times in their client’s life.

I provide a safe space to support and work with you to explore your issues to help you gain a better understanding of yourself to reflect, grow and initiate the changes you are hoping to make. Our relationship is therefore built on trust, empathy and is completely non-judgmental. I work with you at your pace, and will listen and hear you to help you gain the changes and answers you are searching for.

For more information or to book an appointment, please email me on: or call: 07385 826176


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